The Stories We Tell: My Story of My Mum's Death and the Imprint it Left

"Your wounds are your wisdom."

-Gabrielle Bernstein


When I was eight years old, the foundations of my life were shaken and shattered in a way I'm forever re-integrating and wrapping my head around.  


When your support, your nurturing cheerleader, your cocoon of safety, your Universe as you know it, is physically removed from your experience, life changes in a very big way.  Deep griefs, deep woundings, deep impressions are made.  Stories are written.  


In a desperate grab to make sense of the pain, confusion, and sudden emptiness, interpretations- however unconscious- are made.


We write stories in an attempt to make sense of our world.  It's an automatic means of survival.  


Studies have actually shown that as an event unfolds before us, we reach to make sense of it not only out of habit, but out of an addiction to story-telling.  Our brains reward us with a release of chemicals.  It's quite literally a chemical addiction.  It doesn't matter how accurate the story is: if it seems to make some sense of the pain we're in, if it's a narrative we can cling to like a life raft in a storm, a bandaid to our energetic and emotional battle scars, then we'll retell that tale as often as we need to to get by.  Never mind that most of the time, these stories actually limit and stunt us more than they allow any type of real healing to occur.


So that I might illustrate how stories and interpretations are written in this current life time- because don't forget, we carry stories from past lives as well- I'm going to endeavour to really open up in a vulnerable way here.  My understanding of this past experience of mine is forever evolving, as I find myself growing, releasing, forgiving, and facing compassion and gratitude.  


There can be so much wisdom and lessons within darkness and pain-- if we are willing to face it all head on, and integrate it back into ourselves.  If we are willing to consider that our initial interpretations weren't necessarily the Truth of what unfolded.


The summer of 1993, my mum's physical life on this earth plane came to an end.  She had cancer, and her body didn't survive it.  It was a whirlwind of a journey with that disease, as far as cancer journeys go, and from what I can understand of it now as a woman.  I don't feel it's fair for me to speak to my mum's journey, being that that's not my story to tell.  


But I can share a piece of mine.  


It was my mum's wish to be at home.  After a lot of treatments, surgeries, and hospital stays, it's my understanding that she just wanted to be in her own environment, surrounded by the people she loved.  So it was arranged that we'd have around the clock nurses and the necessary equipment for her to spend her time in our small little rental home.  I can remember composing my own "visitor log" and "check up" sheets.  I had everyone sign in when they came to see her, and I regularly performed my own exams on her as she lay in the hospital bed that had been brought in for her.  Despite my deep-seated fear of blood at the time- one that my little brothers often took advantage of- I busied myself "taking care" of her.  Looking back, I'm sure it was my seven and eight year old self's way of exerting some sort of control over the entire process. 


My mum's illness wasn't all that long-lasting.  This came as a massive surprise to me when speaking with my dad about it, years later.  When I was first pregnant with my first born, I felt the need to hear how things unraveled from an adult perspective.  Time as a child is experienced so much differently than time as an adult.  Fully understanding the weight of a disease as an adult is an entirely different experience than simply experiencing it in the day-to-day unfolding as a child.  

My family never outright lied to us about my mum's illness- in fact, I can remember my mum explaining to me the brain surgery she was going to go in for when she was first diagnosed.  I can still feel the complex experience of my young self: feeling scared of what she'd look like without her beautiful blonde hair, while at the same time knowing deeply that she was incredibly brave.


The truth is though, that cancer was an exhausting experience.  Even to an eight year old who was only ever told what was absolutely necessary.  The experience of witnessing your mum with agonizing, completely debilitating migraines.  Hearing her cry behind closed doors when no one else knew you could hear.  Watching her lose the strength and energy to do all of the activities she once so effortlessly did.  Being front row centre to her "episodes" in which her eyes would roll back into her head and she'd go completely limp, sending the adults into frenzy and you into a bedroom to look after your little brothers until the ambulance came to carry her away.  When she was eventually confined to a bed, and only being able to share your summer day camp experiences with her while she listened, but was unable to speak.  Feeling terribly conflicted about leaving her each of those days to go to day camp.  


Toward the end, my mum could no longer open her eyes or speak.  I never gave up sitting by her side and talking to her, I knew she could hear me.  I knew because sometimes, she'd have enough strength to squeeze my hand. 


A time came when my dad sat my little brothers and I down in the living room.  We sat on the rusty-gold coloured couch, just one room over from where my mum lay in her hospital bed.  I'd just turned eight a couple of months earlier, and my little brothers were six and not-quite five years old.


My dad's talk revolved around the explanation that mum was going to "pass away."  I remember listening intently.  I don't think I cried.  I certainly didn't make a huge fuss.  I think my dad was doing his best to hold it together and speak to us in a way that was both honest and clear, and I didn't want to do much in the way of complicating that for him.  Plus, the idea of my mum not being around any more was so foreign, I likely couldn't wrap my head around it.  So, it was explained, she was going to "pass away."  Unless, that is, there was "a miracle."


Now. Here is the part of the unfolding that, until fairly recently in my nearly-thirty-one years, was a challenge for me to bring to light and look right in the face.  


I can remember thinking that I didn't want a miracle.  


I never said it out loud.  I never admitted it to anyone.  I loved my mum more than I'd ever loved anyone.  Of course I couldn't begin to imagine what life would be like without her physically present.  And at the time, it's not like I believed in Spirit being around us in the way I know to be true now.   But I was so finished with life being the way it was.  I just wanted to move on from it.  I was deeply hurt from watching my mum go through all that she went through, and from watching everyone else go through what they went through in turn.  And so, I specifically wished that a miracle not take place, because I didn't want to prolong the entire experience any more.


My mum passed not long after my dad's talk with us in the living room.


She was surrounded by family, and at home, as she'd wanted.  My brothers and I were all at sleepovers for the night: I at my Nana's, and my brothers somewhere that I've neglected to recall.  There's another story tied in to my last goodbye with her, but I will share that another time, in another post.


The reason I wanted to share this piece of my history today was to illustrate the amount of shame, blame, and pain we carry within these stories we tell ourselves.  For a very, very long time, I subconsciously blamed myself for my mum's death.  I believed that because I didn't wish for a miracle, she left this realm.  I believed that I'd had that much control over the process.  At the time of wishing away the miraculous, I did so because I loved my mum and my family so much, that I didn't want to prolong the suffering.  It was a wish made out of protection and, funnily enough, survival.  But when I got what I "wanted," I believed that I was at fault for her leaving.


I held these stories so close, and buried them so deeply, that no one ever had the opportunity to comfort me.  I felt so much shame for not wanting the miracle, that I didn't dare ever speak of it.  In fact, this is the very first time I've ever shared so openly.    


It's only now that I'm able to see that my eight year old understanding of what a miracle was, is not actually a miracle.  


As Marianne Williamson says, "A miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love."  


My eight year old self's wish for a non-miracle was really, on a very deep level in and of itself, a miracle.  I wished to stop perceiving the world through the lens of cancer, which felt fearful then, so that my family- my mum included- could be at peace.  I so badly longed for this shift, that I was able to tell my mum Goodbye and promise her that I'd be okay, even though it hurt in an unspeakable way to do so.  A shift from fear to love.


What happened was: my mum had cancer and she passed because a "miracle" didn't occur.  What I interpreted that to mean was: my mum had cancer and she passed because I didn't wish for a "miracle."


The work of unearthing this long-buried story of shame, pain, and grief has not exactly been what I'd call "enjoyable."  I've come face to face with incredibly raw and ugly parts of myself in the process.  I've had to admit that much of my anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behaviour in my teens and early twenties were based on a story I made up as an eight year old, and then shoved to the back of my closet.  I believe that's what Alanis Morissette would call "a jagged little pill."


And sometimes that's the work of uncovering karmic patterns.  It's not always pretty, and it's certainly not always peaceful.  But it is miraculous.  And it is incredibly, unbelievably liberating and healing.

Gratitude to you for bearing witness to my Truth and my vulnerability.  

I wish for you many miracles and much self-forgiveness and love.


Sat Nam.